THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Axel Clauberg, a networking VP at Deutsche Telekom and chairman of the board of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), is a little bit annoyed that everyone thinks TIP is strictly a Facebook project. When Facebook announced TIP in February 2016, it was joined by Intel, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, and SK Telecom.
At last week’s SDN and NFV World Congress, Clauberg spoke about TIP and then later he saw a tweet from an event attendee who referred to it as “the Facebook Infra Project.” At a breakout session later Clauberg said, “No. It’s not the Facebook Infra Project; it’s the Telecom Infra project!”
Clauberg said that soon TIP plans to add two more service providers to its board of directors. We can speculate that one of those is likely to be BT, which is very active in TIP.
TIP’s mission is to invent new technologies and simplify existing telecom technologies to bring Internet connectivity to those parts of the world that don’t have it. The plan is to use a similar model Facebook has used so successfully with the Open Compute Project, disaggregating software and hardware. The TIP community, which now counts more than 450 members, includes Internet companies, telcos, vendors, and system integrators.
TIP has divided its work into three areas — access, backhaul, and core and management — to explore new hardware and software architectures. Although the access work area has the most number of projects, the most prominent working area so far is the backhaul area.
The open optical project led by Equinix and Facebook falls under the backhaul work area. In November 2016, the group announced its Voyager packet-optical transponder platform. And in March 2017, Telia Carrier completed a successful trial of 100G and 200G using the Voyager white box transponder on Telia Carrier’s 677-mile Stockholm to Hamburg route.
At the SDN and NFV World Congress Uwe Fischer, CTO of Coriant, said Coriant is involved with TIP’s open optical project. “One of the core ideas of TIP is doing the same thing that OCP did in the data center, making things more standardized. It’s also a way to influence how networks are built in the future. We are very much engaging with the Voyager box.”
Also under the backhaul work area, Facebook and DT are working together on the millimeter wave (mmWave) project. “It’s focused on the unlicensed 60GHz tech and the economic models and everything you need to build a mmWave network in a difficult part of the network,” said Clauberg. “You cannot really go long distances, but the great thing is, in most parts of the world it’s free spectrum.”
The mmWave Group aims to address the growing demand for bandwidth in dense, highly populated cities by delivering gigabits of capacity cheaper compared to deploying fiber.
TIP is reexamining its core and management work area. According to the TIP website, the goal of the projects in this area is to share cultural and process transformation practices. But Clauberg said, “These were not working out the way we intended from the board perspective. We didn’t get enough people behind the initiative.”
BT and TIP
Mansoor Hanif, director of converged networks for BT, said the company decided to participate in TIP as a way to network with telecom innovators. He indicated that BT was an old, entrenched telco that had a hard time connecting with startups. “We realized TIP was the perfect environment to directly engage with a new ecosystem,” said Hanif. “This is very new for networks where we usually only talked to big fish. Now we’re right down talking to the plankton. TIP is an excellent alternative route to accelerate innovation.”
One way that BT plans to collaborate with “the plankton” is by hosting a TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC). Earlier this month, both BT and SK Telecom announced they were hosting TEACs in the United Kingdom and Seoul, respectively. The TEACs bring together telcos with startups, enticing the startups with access to venture capital and mentorship opportunities.